A City Council bill barring employers from asking job candidates if they have ever been convicted of a crime is meant to help felons re-enter society.
But the fine print of the initiative could lead to lawsuits against employers, according to one legal expert.
The bill, which is likely to become law in some form, would prohibit the commonly used "check boxes" on job applications that ask about past convictions. It also would forbid employers from asking questions about an applicant's criminal history until a conditional job offer has been tendered.
A number of states have similar laws. But Mark Goldstein, a labor and employment attorney at Reed Smith LLP, says New York City’s would go further, as it would cover businesses with as few as four employees—placing new burdens on small employers. By contrast, New Jersey's recently passed law applies to businesses with 15 or more workers.
The bigger concern is lawsuits from job seekers. To be able to reject an applicant because of a past conviction, employers would have to go through a rigorous process that, if not followed, would result in the presumption that a business owner engaged in unlawful discrimination, Mr. Goldstein said.
“I think you’d see some increases in litigation, and this is not exactly a well-settled area of law,” he said.